You know your English is good. You can chat away in the classroom, and you’ve never failed a grammar test. But once you get out in the real world suddenly, your tongue feels tied, your voice goes quiet, and all the vocabulary you’ve ever learnt rushes out of your head.
Sound familiar? Conversational English can be intimidating at first but with the right attitude and plenty of practice, you can become a confident English speaker too. Here are some tips and ideas to get you talking.
Why you should practise conversational English
First things first: why does conversational English matter? There are several good reasons.
Conversational English is informal, free-flowing and unpredictable. When you have to respond quickly to something unexpected, your brain works harder to recall vocabulary and phrases. While your progress might feel slow at first, those conversations will strengthen your English skills over time.
You’ll also start to sound more like a fluent speaker. Casual conversation is a great way to perfect your pronunciation and get used to idiomatic English phrases.
Finally, conversational English tends to be a little faster than formal speech such as a listening exercise or a prepared presentation. Listening and speaking at a faster pace is very good for your fluency.
It’s important to remember that these benefits take time. Improving your conversational English doesn’t just happen overnight. You’ll need to put in the effort and wait to see the results.
Top ways to practise your conversational English
With that said, there are some things you can try to improve your conversational English more quickly.
Here are some of our favourite strategies for gaining confidence with spoken English:
- Team up. It’s much easier to practise conversation when you have someone to practise with! Look for a study buddy, exchange partner or English-speaking club. For example, the British Council in Singapore runs English conversation groups and activities through MyClub.
- Get into popular culture. Find English-language films, TV series or radio stations that you enjoy, then use them to practise your accent and pick up new phrases. You can also learn colloquial English by listening to music with tools such as LyricsTraining.
- Talk to yourself. It might sound strange - but this is a good place to start if you are shy or nervous. Chat to yourself in English as you go about your day. Once you’ve gained a little confidence, you’ll be ready to include others in the conversation.
- Try a tongue-twister. One of the big challenges in conversational English is learning to speak comfortably at a higher speed. Tongue-twisters are a very effective way to improve your fluency. Check out this guide to tongue-twisters from the British Council.